When severly burnt children are admitted into public hospitals, the trauma they suffer has a greater impact on their lives than the scars. In an effort to alleviate some of the emotional and physical pain these children and their families endure, renowned local artist Gabrielle Raaff jumped on board the Surgeons for Little Lives initiative, endorsed by advertising agency Lowe Johannesburg.
Confronted with the problems burn and trauma victims go through on almost a daily basis, the paediatric surgeons at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital founded Surgeons for Little Lives to help ease the discomfort of the children who suffer from these distressing experiences.
Media research shows that 1 300 children in South Africa die from burn incidents every year, and the ones who survive are left to live with serious disfigurations. This high number is a direct result of the open fires and paraffin heaters or stoves that locals living in impoverished informal settlements, rely on. For families living in these communities, the event of hospitalisation is a great ordeal relating to the long distance to public hospitals and the absence of some place to stay.
Gabrielle Raaff, whose work has been shown at numerous exhibitions from Cape Town to London, visited the children in the burns unit to produce collaborative artworks that will be auctioned off at a fundraiser in Johannesburg to promote the organisation.
“We approached Gabby to do a collaborative body of work that would include the children’s touch in finishing the pieces,” Bruce Anderson, executive creative director of Lowe Johannesburg, told us. “Gabby’s observational and empathetic approach to her work was ideally suited. Add to this that she was not only interested as a mother but because she was curious to see how children would interact with her abstracted point of view of the everyday.”
The next project for the burns unit at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is a play area for the children. Professor Jerome Loveland explains that “play keeps the children active and helps to stimulate them, which speeds up their recovery”.